#India- Desperate for a dam, ready to displace 100,000 people


Author(s):
Sugandh Juneja
Issue Date:
2013-1-15

Government skews facts to plan a project in Rajasthan that will displace 100,000 people

Government says<br /><br /><br />
the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while<br /><br /><br />
residents say the project falls inside it” src=”<a href=http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/25_20130115.jpg&#8221; />

Government says the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while residents say the project falls inside it (Photo: Sugandh Juneja)

“We will die but not give our land.” This is the cry of residents of 50 villages in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar and Baran districts. They are at risk of being displaced by a dam planned in the area for irrigation and drinking purposes. The dam will be built 120 km from Kota town in Akawad village of Jhalawar on river Parwan. At an estimated cost of Rs 1,114 crore, the dam’s capacity is 490 million cubic metre (MCM). Of this, 300 MCM is reserved for irrigation and 50 MCM for drinking (for 862 villages). The dam also has provision for supplying 100 MCM to thermal power plants.

The dam is likely to submerge 10,000 hectares (ha), including more than 1,600 ha of forestland. The state government says the dam will completely submerge 17 villages and partially inundate 30 villages. Residents allege that the government’s definition of complete submergence is skewed. “The planned dam will submerge almost 50 villages, but the government does not recognise this,” says Hari Ballabh of Manpura village in Jhalawar.

Most of the residential areas in the two districts are on a hillock, while the agricultural land is at a lower altitude. “What is the point of declaring villages at a higher altitude partially submerged if their fields and roads are going to be fully inundated?” asks a resident of Bilendi village in Baran. As a result of the categorisation, the government has served a notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, only in the villages termed completely submerged. The Section 4 notice identifies the area that is to be acquired for public purpose or a company. Any person interested in the identified land can file an objection against the notice with the Collector within 30 days. Akawad village has not been served the notice. Residents of the villages that received the notice have filed their objections under the name of Parwan Doob Kshetra Hitkari evam Jungle Bachao Samiti (PDKHJBS). A people’s organisation, PDKHJBS is headed by Lokendra Singh, resident of Sarthal village in Baran. “Most people have small land holdings or are landless and till someone else’s land. Where will they all go?” he asks.

A resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar points to another problem. “Nobody is interested in marrying the youngsters of our villages because they believe we will lose our land,” he says.

Is the dam really needed?

The land in the submergence area is extremely fertile with “black cotton soil”. The common crops grown are garlic, coriander and soy. “People in the region have government-licensed pattas (land titles) for the cultivation of opium and it is well known that opium grows in fertile soil,” says Chhattrasal Singh, member of PDKHJBS. But the residents say the government has categorised their land as barren or a single-crop land so that compensation amount decreases. “The government authorities have not yet informed us about the rehabilitation and resettlement package,” informs Bhanu Pratap of Maloni village in Baran district.

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple<br /><br /><br />
will get submerged if the dam is built” src=”<a href=http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/26_20130115.jpg&#8221; />

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple will get submerged if the dam is built

As per the dam proposal, of the total area of 0.6 million ha in Jhalawar district, 0.3 million ha is under cultivation. Of this, 0.2 million ha is irrigated. About 80 per cent of this area is irrigated using groundwater or existing anicuts, while for the rest supply comes from reservoirs and canals. “Villages in the command area of the dam use groundwater for irrigation,” says Govind Singh of Maloni. “They will want this dam so that they can save money on the electricity spent on extracting water,” he adds. Narendar Singh of Aamli village, which falls in the command area, agrees, “We are using tubewells for irrigation, so a dam is important.”

The tubewells go 90 metres deep in the area and no rainwater harvesting is practised. His son says the decision of having a dam or not cannot be based on the present situation. “We will need it in the future since the water level is going to fall if we keep using groundwater,” he says, adding, “but people should be adequately compensated otherwise it will be injustice.” Durga Daan Singh of another village in the command area is unsure. “I do not know if it is fine to have development at the cost of others. We sometimes get water from the Shergarh weir (barrier across a river) but it is causing problems since the government is not maintaining it,” he says. The weir is 10 km downstream of the proposed dam. There is another issue that is bothering residents: the dam’s water allocation provision for thermal power plants. “Adani is setting up a plant in Kawai. If water is given to power plants, the purpose of the dam will be defeated,” says Narendar Singh. Similar concerns are voiced by those in the submergence area. “More than half the water from this dam will be given to power plants. Government would not give water for irrigation,” says a Bilendi resident.

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not<br /><br /><br />
to scale” src=”<a href=http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/27_20130115.jpg&#8221; />

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not to scale

According to Shambhu Singh of Aamli, only villages under total submergence zone are at a loss. “In villages that are on the outskirts of the submergence area, like Sarthal, water will retreat for some time but it will make the land fertile and irrigated without any external help. People can at least grown one crop in these villages,” he says. But people in the submergence area are not convinced. “Why can’t the government build small anicuts instead of a dam?” they ask. “If the project comes up, there will be blood, not water, in the river,” says Ganim Boh of Bilendi.

What’s at stake?

Besides submerging villages, the project will affect religious places of heritage value. For example, Kakoni, the eighth century temple in Baran, which was declared protected by the state archaeological department in 1970. The temple priest says every time the department digs up some area around the temple, it discovers new statues. “A new page of our history unfolds here almost every day,” he says. Chhattrasal Singh of PDKHJBS informs the temple is on a hill. “It won’t be submerged but all access to it will go under water,” he says. Religious sentiments will be hurt along with loss of architectural heritage, says a resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar. The Kalla Maharaj temple near Akawad village is under threat of submergence. People offer wall clocks in the temple when their wishes get fulfilled. Umrao Singh, superintendent for Kota from the Rajasthan archaeological department, explains the importance of the temples. “These are old temples. If they are lost, we will lose our history. I hope the government has a plan in mind about giving an approach road to the Kakoni temple,” he says.

When the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was contacted to check whether the project has been granted environment and forest clearances, it seemed confused. “We are carrying out a preliminary enquiry and it appears that ‘probably’ the expert appraisal committee considered the project and granted environment clearance in September last year,” says a senior MoEF official. When Down To Earth checked MoEF online records no information on the project was found.

The planned dam, which is yet to receive forest clearance, is likely to submerge some protected forest patches.

In September this year, the Forest Advisory Committee discussed the dam project and its requirement of diverting 1,835 ha of forestland. Pointing out that the project site is just 150 metres from the Shergarh wildlife sanctuary, home to crocodiles, panthers and nilgai, the committee formed a sub-committee to visit the site. T C Todaria, an independent member of the sub-committee, says the planned visit is yet to happen.

The dam actually falls inside the sanctuary (see map). It is in Niharia block which is next to the Bilendi block. The line that demarcates Niharia from Bilendi is also the boundary of the sanctuary. People in the area and the government are at loggerheads over the dam location; while people say it is in Niharia block, the latter claims it is in Bilendi block. To resolve the issue, in June, the forest department called for a joint survey, involving the revenue and forest departments and the local community. PDKHJBS head, who participated in the survey, says the study started from Mokhampura village, walking on the Bilendi block boundary from east to west. After walking some distance, the boundary overlapped with the common line between Bilendi and Niharia blocks. The boundary of the sanctuary and the blocks was marked using the block files and pillars.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/28_20130115.jpg&#8221; width=”457″ height=”306″ border=”0″ />The land in the submergence area of the dam is extremely fertile, but the government says it is barren

On the next survey date, instead of starting from the place where they had left, the government officials started studying from Maloni village toward the north along the Parwan river. In their inspection report, the officials concluded that the dam site is 150 metres upstream of the boundary of the sanctuary. “The officials had a fair idea by the end of the second day that if they go according to the block file, the dam site would fall in the sanctuary in Niharia block,” says PDKHJBS head.

Residents produce a letter dated June 12 from the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) in Jaipur to the chief conservator of forests (CCF) at Kota. In the letter, the PCCF has asked the CCF to produce a report stating “the Parwan scheme does not fall in the Shergarh Sanctuary”. The CCF Kota passed similar orders to the district forest officer (DFO) at Baran on June 13. This was followed by the joint survey.

DFO Baran, P D Gupta, says the dam was initially designed to be at the boundary of the sanctuary. “At my intervention, it was shifted 150 metres away. According to their feasibility report, this was the maximum they could shift.” Mohan Lal Meena, chief conservator of forests (CCF), says the sanctuary boundary is the same as the boundary between Niharia and Bilendi blocks. He confirms:“The dam is 150 m away from the sanctuary.” Meena adds that he knows why people are against the dam. “The dam will submerge forests that have been encroached upon by people for residing or agriculture. These encroachers will not get any compensation if the project comes up,” he explains.

Chhattrasal of PDKHJBS, who was also a part of the joint survey team, says even if the project is 150 metres upstream of the sanctuary, it falls in an eco-sensitive area and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Asad Rehmani, a member of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), says there is a ruling by the Supreme Court that a 10-km buffer zone has to be maintained around all eco-sensitive areas, including sanctuaries and national parks. “No projects can be allowed within the zone,” he says, adding, “once NBWL receives the proposal, I will assess the impact and convey my opinion to the board which will take the final call.”


 

Shifting sands: A fishing village lost to sea


By Nityanand Jayaraman at  http://tnlabour.in/, a bilingual blog site dedicated to discussing issues related to labour in Tamil Nadu. This site is set up and run by a small group of volunteers.

A photo taken in June 2011. As of 6 November, 2012, the building is in ruins, and the beach has disappeared into sea

P. Jagan is a kattumaram fisherman, a trade that has changed little in centuries. Early most mornings, Jagan launches his boat through the pounding surf and paddles his way to the fishing grounds of his choice. The sea, it appears, has been kind to him.

His house, situated in a row of identical concrete houses closest to the sea, is well-lit and spacious. A washing machine, refrigerator, wide-screen TV and other assets suggest that Jagan has not done too badly for himself with just the kattumaram. As boats go, the kattumaram — with its five logs hewn from the wood of the Albizzia tree, and lashed together — is an efficient and light surf-riding, beach landing vessel. Jagan has been facing one problem, though. The beach outside his home is shrinking.

“The sea has come in,” he says. Looking east from his house, the proof of his claim is visible. A 2-metre high wall of granite boulders lines the village. Unlike many of the other fishing villages on the East Coast Road, Jagan’s village — Sulerikattukuppam or Kattukuppam for short — has no beach. On the Northern edge of the village, near the temple where the line of rocks end, there is a small beach. But this too is rapidly shrinking, as the boulders divert the waves northwards. With every pounding wave and its backwash, a valuable piece of Kattukuppam is lost to the sea.

“We had 47 fibre boats, and 17 kattumarams in our village before the Thane cyclone (2011),” Jagan says. “The cyclone damaged the boats, and many didn’t feel it was worth replacing the boats. Now, there are only 24 boats and 14 kattumarams. There is no place to park our boats. The ocean trade (kadal thozhil) is finished. That’s all sir,” he says.

The cause of Kattukuppam’s misery is a 100 million litres per day desalination plant being constructed at the southern edge of the village by VA Tech Wabag for the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board.

Beaches are dynamic formations, waxing and waning with changing seasons. India’s east coast is influenced by two monsoons – the Northeast and the Southwest. For nine months, including during the southwest monsoon, ocean currents move sand northwards feeding the beaches along the way. Briefly, for three months during the Northeast, the silt is transported from south to North. It is a known fact that any hard engineering structure constructed on India’s eastern coastline will cause erosion of the beaches north of the structure.

Such erosion, they said, would not only expose them to the fury of storms but also cost them precious beach space. Besides being the space for storing craft and mending gear, beaches are also used for fishing. Kattukuppam has eight shoreseine nets. These nets are dragged into sea by a boat, with one end held on to by 10 to 15 fishermen standing on the beach. The boat then makes a loop and returns to the beach encircling the target shoal of fish. The other end of the net is handed over to a second team of 10 to 15 able-bodied men, who then drag back the heavy net, hopefully made heavier by a healthy catch of anchovies or shrimp. Shoreseines are communal nets that are deployed when the sea is flat as glass, usually in the late and post-monsoon months of December, January and February. But these nets require vast amounts of beach space, wide enough to accommodate 15 men standing 2-3 metre apart and long enough to allow for the net to encircle a 100 metre-wide shoal of fish in the nearshore waters. On a lucky day, a shoreseine can haul in several lakhs worth of fish.

Jagan is rueful. “This year, it looks like the shoreseine will not touch water even once. We even lost one net last month. We had kept it on the beach. The sea took it,” he said simply. “We have moved the remaining into the casuarina grove. They are very expensive. Each net costs more than Rs. 2 lakhs.”

Even when it was coming up, fisherfolk protested. They complained that the highly saline rejects from the desalination plant will poison the sea near their village, and harm fishing livelihoods. More importantly, they worried that the structures built in sea for sucking in seawater or discharging wastewater will trigger sea erosion.

In typical fashion, the wisdom behind the fisherfolk’s protests was brushed aside. Protestors were brutalised by the police; a few contracts were given to a handful of big people in the village. The collector assured the villagers of jobs in the water factory.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board issued a Consent to Establish in August 2009. Experts nominated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests claimed to have studied engineering and environmental impact assessment reports and granted CRZ clearance to the project. Scientists averred that there would be no detrimental or unmanageable environmental consequences. The drone of the institutionalised expert drowned the rustic wisdom of the subaltern.

“What can a small fishing village do against these giants?” asks Jagan, looking towards Metro Water’s massive water tanks that can be seen towering over the village.

Construction at the plant began in 2010 with a row of pilings driven into sea. In June 2011, when the author visited the village, erosion was already at an advanced stage. Sandbags had been thrown at the waterline – a puny attempt to thwart the sea. The fall from the beach to the water was already very steep. The foundations of a community hall, used by the fisherfolk to mend nets, stood exposed and eroded. Storm surges had already taken a toll on the building, and cracks were evident.

These buildings were built by the Rotary Clubs of Chennai and Mumbai after the tsunami. They wanted to develop Sulerikattukuppam as a model fishing village. “At that time, the sea was far away,” said Jagan. “All that was beach,” he said with a sweep of his hands covering a 20 to 50 metre expanse of water.

Between June 2011 and now, two cyclones – Thane and Nilam – have battered the coast. “Had the sea been where it had, with the beach separating us, we would have been fine.” A row of community structures – the net mending hall, a community gathering hall, a wall-less hall with a roof supported on pillars – that once defined the eastern edge of the village now lie in ruins.

Advancing steadily northwards, the erosion is now eating into the beaches of Nemmelikuppam, nearly 1.5 km away. According to Jagan, those villagers too have now sent a letter of complaint to the authorities. A mapping study done using a handheld GPS meter and Google Earth images suggests that anywhere between 2.5 acres to 12 acres of beach may have already been lost to erosion.

“The Collector tells us that the pilings will be removed by February, after which there will be no problem. But we know that is not true. They have dumped huge concrete boulders – each weighing hundreds of tons – to anchor down the pipes for taking in seawater and letting out effluents. These boulders form a submarine wall that will prevent the sand from moving north,” he says. “Will they remove this too?”

Jagan’s wife brings out a bottle of “ice-water” for us. That water is from a hand-pump near his house. Almost anticipating my next question, she tells me with a laugh that even this water will turn salty now that the sea has moved closer to the village. It is ironic that a desalination plant set up to turn salt water into fresh water ends up turning fresh water saline.

From nuclear plants to desalination plants, the standard response to protests is police action and the banal promise of employment. About 160 people work as daily labour on and off in the water factory. “Their job is to wash pebbles,” says 30-year old housewife S. Kavitha. Men get about Rs. 300 a day, and women about Rs. 200. “My husband goes there for some extra income if he has free time. But washing pebbles isn’t exactly a livelihood,” Kavitha says with a smile.

The Government seems none too bothered by the plight of the 217 families in this village. Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa plans to inaugurate the desalination plant early next year. Another plant, four times this size, is proposed at an as-yet undisclosed location in Kanchipuram district.

 

Tribal Districts Show Heavy Forest Degradation


India’s forest cover decreased by 367 square kilometers between 2007 and 2009, and it was primarily tribal and hilly regions that were to blame, according to the biennial forest survey released last week by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The report showed some areas of progress. Among the 15 states that increased their forest cover in the period are Orissa and Rajasthan. In Punjab, the nation’s grain bowl, enhanced plantation activities and an increase in agro-forestry practices contributed to the highest gain in forest cover with 100 square kilometers.

But those gains were outdone by large-scale de-forestation elsewhere. The state that really jumps out in the report is the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which lost a whopping 281 square kilometers of forest cover, contributing 76.5% of the net decline in forest cover nationally.

The report attributes the drastic loss of forest cover in states such as Andhra Pradeshto harvesting of Eucalyptus trees in forests and felling of trees in encroached areas. After releasing the report, Secretary of Environment and Forests T. Chatterjee said Naxals – left-wing, Maoist militants that are active across several Indian states – are responsible for the felling of trees and heavy deforestation, according to local news reports.

But the forest report itself didn’t specifically single out Naxals. And another top environment ministry official contradicted Mr. Chatterjee, saying Naxals didn’t play a major role in deforestation.

 

Read more here